2011 West Virginia Mountaineers Predictions and College Football Futures Odds
by Darin Zank - 7/19/2011
West Virginia has been home to one of the premier football programs in the country for quite awhile. But over the course of the last few years the Mountaineers have moved in the direction of disarray, at least at the management level. Coach Rich Rodriguez skipped town in favor of Michigan four years ago as he was just ahead of NCAA investigators, but he didn’t last long with the Wolverines. Coach Bill Stewart followed with some success, but when he got word he had to take on an heir apparent, he reacted by allegedly asked reporters to dig up dirt on the new guy, and he was later forced to resign. So new Head Coach Dana Holgorsen takes over a turbulent situation in Morgantown.
Last year West Virginia had 16 starters back, and they were considered among the favorites to win the Big East again, even though they had to break in a new quarterback. The Mountaineers started 3-0, but needed a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final half-minute before beating Marshall in overtime. They then lost at LSU, won a couple games in a row, then got upset by Syracuse and (in OT) Connecticut. West Virginia rallied to win its last four, which included a blow-out victory over Pitt in the Backyard Brawl, but they finished on a down note, losing to North Carolina State in a minor bowl. So that's three-straight 9-4 seasons for West Virginia, which is a downgrade from its three-straight 11-win seasons from 2005-07.
The Mountaineers managed to go 7-5 ATS last year, and 2-0 ATS as underdogs. And West Virginia went 5-8 on the ‘over/unders,’ as Mountaineers games, thanks mainly to their stingy defense, averaged just 39 total points per contest
This year West Virginia returns 11 starters, but only four on defense. So their new offensive-minded coach has work to do on that side of the ball.
Holgorsen takes over in awkward circumstances. He was going to be the coach-in-waiting for one season, but instead steps in a year before scheduled. Holgorsen was most recently the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, where he helped create an offensive monster. And before that he OCed at Texas Tech and Houston. So the Mountaineers will transition from a team that averaged 300 yards per game on the ground a few years ago to a team that throws the ball 40 times each game.
Seven starters are back on offense this year, including QB Geno Smith (65 percent completions last year, 24/7 TD/INT), WR Tavon Austin and three O linemen. But they lose leading rusher Noel Devine, who accounted for 4,900 yards from scrimmage in his college career, and they took a hit when senior G Josh Jenkins hurt his knee in the Spring Game and was lost for the season. West Virginia ranked third in conference play last year in yardage at 366 YPG and first in rushing at 162 YPG. But, of course, those numbers don't mean a whole lot now, with the change in system that is coming.
Just four starters return on a unit that ranked first in Big East play in total defense, allowing just 249 YPG and giving up only 12 points per game. The Mountaineers also led the league in yards per points allowed and in sacks. West Virginia gets back just two on their front six, but fortunately one of those is DE Bruce Irvin, who ranked second in the nation with 14 sacks last year. While there are many holes to fill on this side of the ball, West Virginia should still field one of the better defenses in the Big East.
2011 West Virginia Mountaineers Football Schedule
The Mountaineers begin with five nonconference games, starting with Marshall, whom they needed OT to beat last year, before they visit Maryland and host LSU. They then start the Big East season with a revenge game at home with UConn, visit Syracuse and Rutgers, get Louisville at home, visit Cincinnati, then end the season with the other two Big East favorites, getting Pitt at home and visiting South Florida. So if they can win all the games they'll be expected to win, and beat LSU (a national title contender), the Mountaineers could be undefeated heading into their home stretch.
2011 West Virginia Futures Odds
2011 West Virginia Mountaineers Football Predictions
One might expect the Mountaineers offense to go through some growing pains, with the change in systems, although it looks like they've got a quarterback who could handle the situation. However, the loss of Jenkins will hurt, and the defense is a bit ‘iffy’. So we'll call for nine regular-season wins.
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